12:50am PT by Chris Gardner
Viacom Toasts New West Coast HQ With Snoop Dogg, Weed Smoke and Promise From Shari Redstone: "The Best is Yet to Come"
It was a scene surprisingly reminiscent of an episode of MTV Spring Break from the aughts: Clutching a microphone in one hand and a joint in the other, Snoop Dogg (aka DJ Snoopadelic wearing dark sunglasses and a hoodie) hyped up a massive crowd of 20-somethings-on-up using music blasted from giant speakers featuring monster hits by Dr. Dre, Lauryn Hill, Rihanna and, of course, Snoop himself. The California-bred rapper was joined on stage by a hype man (in a white sweatsuit-combo and hat to match) who kept busy pouring vodka and tequila into the mouths of thirsty revelers and tossing out party favors (joints and Snoop Dogg's G Pen Herbal Vaporizers).
This was not Cancun or even Miami, however. It was late Thursday afternoon just after 5 p.m. in Hollywood at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street, in the courtyard of Viacom's new West Coast headquarters. But it was a party, and that was the point. The corporate parent company, previously based in Santa Monica, hosted hundreds of its employees (and a few select press outlets) for a happy-hour-style event to officially unveil the office space, now home to eight of its major brands including MTV, Comedy Central, BET, VH1, Spike, TV Land, CMT and Logo.
More newsworthy than a cloud of smoke surrounding Snoop Dogg — it should only make headlines if the rapper wasn't trailed by Mary Jane — is what Viacom's West Coast outpost means for the company as it moves forward under new leadership that seems intent on recapturing the glory days when its networks and shows like Spring Break dominated the pop culture conversation. (Debuts like this week's BET miniseries The New Edition Story are a successful step in the right direction.)
Recently installed Viacom CEO Bob Bakish apologized for breaking up the music as he followed Snoop's 45-minute DJ set by taking to the podium to explain just how this new office space will contribute to the company's overall plan. (He shouldn't say sorry for his amusing quip that "Snoop needs to get a little enhanced oxygen," just as the rapper exited stage right.) "This building, in many ways, embodies the future of Viacom," said Bakish. "This incredible new facility and its sister building that houses the Nickelodeon Animation Studio come as we begin an exciting new chapter in the Viacom history. This building brings nearly all of our brands together under one roof, and it's really a great symbol of a new emphasis on collaboration across the portfolio making the most of our creative talent and assets."
Bakish didn't forget to mention one of Viacom's other major assets — Paramount Pictures. "I also like that if you stand in the right window in the building, you can see the iconic Paramount water tower from here," said the Viacom chief. "A big part of our future is integrating Paramount better into the company and connecting it more to the work that we do across the media brands."
And while Bakish, who served as Viacom International Media Networks CEO before taking over in his current role at the end of 2016, knows the Viacom family quite well, he seemed genuinely touched to be embraced by the staff during the transition. "On a personal note, thank you for being so warm and welcoming," he said. "I look forward to getting to know more of you, as I no doubt will be spending more time here."
He then thanked Snoop and Flo Rida (who would close out the festivities) for "helping us warm up the house today and helping us have a little fun in true Viacom style." But that fun wouldn't be complete without a Redstone.
Shari Redstone followed Bakish with her own five-minute speech, during which she applauded the creative talents across Viacom's stable of "impressive" brands.
"The timing of this opening could not be more perfect," said Redstone, who also recently helped christen Nickelodeon's new Burbank facility. "Never before have we been more focused on strengthening our brands, creating great content across multiple platforms and having a home for all of you here today that will inspire you to do what you do best — and you guys really do it best — and most important … embracing that culture of collaboration, support and innovation, which is where it all begins."
Collaboration was the central focus in the design of the new building at 1575 North Gower. The 210,000-square-foot facility at Kilroy Realty Corporation’s Columbia Square is housed in what was the original CBS Studios. It features floor-to-ceiling windows on all six floors and is filled with natural light and panoramic views from the Hollywood sign to downtown L.A. out to Malibu. Approximately 850 Viacom staffers have set up shop in the building, which already has achieved LEED Gold Core and Shell certification, a fact that generated huge applause at the Thursday night event.
Also of note: the building features an open floor plan free from traditional office walls and wire technology; ergonomic sit-stand desks; indoor and outdoor working spaces; state-of-the-art video technology; 83 conference rooms of varying sizes; two insert stages and shoot rooms complemented by a control room with social network interfaces and connectivity to all global Viacom locations; 40 multiplatform production stations capable of editing, encoding, 360VR rendering, video distribution, graphics creating and social engagement; a 1,200-square-foot "Destination Room" for training sessions, employee town halls, seminars, press junkets and special events; more than 100 pieces of original artwork commissioned by Viacom for the space; 6,500 square feet of outdoor space; and five mothers’ rooms, among other amenities.
It's a long list, but one that Redstone believes will help foster the kind of company culture that leads to success. "When I look at Viacom today, I could not be more pleased to see the re-emergence of that wonderful, incredible culture that has always been the lynchpin of our success," she said. "There is so much opportunity ahead of us. This office speaks to the best of Viacom, the future of our great brands and the potential that lies ahead."
But Redstone wasn't done there. Instead, she closed her remarks with a pledge: "I promise you one thing, the best is yet to come."